How to clean a messy house

My House is a Mess (How to clean a dirty house, when you don’t know where to start)

Help! My House is a Mess!

“My house is a disgusting mess.”  “My house is a mess and I don’t know where to start!”  Do these sound like thoughts you’ve had?  If you’re finding yourself feeling a little (or a lot) overwhelmed by a messy house, keep reading, because we’re going to cover a lot of ground here!

If your house is always a mess, it goes without saying that it’s time to find a solution.  You know what’s really great, though?

You’re here. 

You’ve made the decision to do something about your messy house!

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How to clean a messy house

My House is a Mess, Where Do I Start?

The first place to start is to establish what kind of mess you have.  

There are usually two different ways a house is messy. It’s best to first decide which one applies to you. Maybe it’s both, and if that’s the case, no worries! We’ll tackle both scenarios! 

Messy House Type 1: Dirty Mess

The first type of mess is dirty mess.  You can have this kind of home if you are generally okay about putting away clutter, but not so great at making sure to wash floors, clean the toilet, wash the dishes, etc.  

In my opinion, you have two places you can start with dirty mess. 

The first is to do a standard cleaning, just to get things out of the way and get you in the habit of cleaning.

After that, you can reassess and plan a day to do a deep clean, which will be a little easier because you’ve already laid some groundwork.

The second option is to start with a serious deep cleaning.  Doing a deep clean can be like a complete refresh, and starting with a clean slate (pun intended).

After an initial deep cleaning, you’ll be able to then clean the house quicker on your regular cleaning day (because after this, I hope you’ll be comfortable making a regular cleaning day so you don’t have to stress about the house!).

Whichever option you choose, I have you covered!  You can get this master cleaning list for free and check things off your list!

The second type of mess is clutter mess. We’ll go over a few options for clutter mess in the section below!

Messy House Type 2: My House is So Cluttered I Don’t Know Where to Start!

First, your house can be clean (i.e. floors are vacuumed, things are dusted, etc), but cluttered.  If you are in the clutter camp, I recommend starting with this 30 day declutter calendar.  It’s a free printable, so all you have to do is print it out and cross off items as you go.  

You don’t have to do it in 30 days! 

If you want to dedicate a weekend to seriously decluttering, you can definitely do that!  You can do it in a week, take the full 30 days, however makes sense for you and your life! 

 The point is to not overwhelm yourself. Sometimes feeling overwhelmed makes us want to give up the task, so take the calendar, print it out, and make a plan you feel comfortable committing to.

No matter how you decide to do it, you can cross off each item as you go to make sure you don’t miss anywhere. Grab your FREE declutter calendar below!

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Messy House Type 3: Cluttered AND Dirty

Now, it is entirely possible that you have both clutter mess and dirty mess.  Don’t worry, I firmly believe that it happens to everyone at some point, whether they admit to it or not!

I’ve certainly been there, so no judgments from me!

I would recommend tackling this in two different ways:

  1. Declutter first, then clean up the dirt

    By decluttering first, you have more area and more room to dust, clean floors, move around, etc. In this process, I’d declutter the whole house first, then start cleaning the dirt.
  2. Work room by room.

    Pick one room, say the kitchen. Declutter it, and then clean it. Complete everything before moving on to the next room.

Whichever option you prefer, or if you’d like to do a hybrid, make sure you try to stick with it!

my house is a mess

The best way to stick with it is to not overwhelm yourself (i.e. taking everything out of every cupboard and then feeling like, “now what am I supposed to do?!”).

Give yourself small tasks at a time to accomplish. Be forgiving of yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over how things got this way. It doesn’t matter anymore!

It is what it is, and now you’re taking care of business! You should be proud of yourself for getting started!

In the section below, we’ll talk about the two different routes you can take to start cleaning a messy house – regardless of what kind of mess you have, either of these processes will work for both types.  Here’s the brief rundown of how you can start:

Start by cleaning one room at a time, OR start by cleaning one thing at a time.  Both of these will be listed below with greater detail!

Another place to start is to get some cleaning motivation!  If you’re not even motivated to start cleaning, here are 11 tips to get motivated to clean your house!

How to Clean a Messy House

Alright, here’s where we start to get into the details of cleaning a messy house!

There are a few options, and hopefully you’ve been able to read in the section above about the different types of mess in the house.

Once you’ve figured out which type of messy house you have, you can decide which route below is best for you!

Where do I start cleaning a messy house?

You can either start with the messiest area, or you can start with the easiest area. Either way has its own advantages!

When you start with the messiest, you’re getting the biggest and most difficult parts out of the way first. Everything else will be easier!

When you start with the easiest, or least messy area first, you are getting something out of the way and helping yourself to get more motivated to take on the rest. It’s really like easing yourself into the cleaning groove.

When you’re cleaning a messy house, you also need to decide if you want to do it one room at a time, or one thing at a time. You can start in one room, and clean the entire kitchen, for example. Or you can start with one thing, and dust everything first (just an example).

We’ll explore these in more detail!

We are going to operate with these two different routes.  Since we’re overwhelmed with the mess, our options are going to be:

Route #1: One room at a time

Route #2: One thing at a time

If you’re like me, these are kind of difficult to stick to sometimes.  It can be easy to pick a room and then lose focus on what you’re doing, or think “I should actually be cleaning the bathroom” when you’re supposed to be working on the bedroom. 

That’s okay!  We’ll go into our messy house cleaning options a little more in depth below!

Cleaning One Room At a Time

This is just how it sounds.  Pick one room to start with.

You can start with the messiest room of the house if you want to tackle it right away.  After doing the messiest room, or whichever one you dread most, first, everything after that will be easier!

Or, you can start with the least messy room first.  It can be less intimidating, and it can really help you get into your cleaning groove.

Whichever option you choose, pick a room and stick with it!  You will feel so amazing when that room is done, and it will help keep you motivated to move onto the next!

Grab my ebook that details step-by-step on how to clean each room of your house. You can get the ebook on sale for just $5 here!

Cleaning One Thing At a Time

The second route we can take is to choose one thing at a time.

One thing at a time means you’re going around the house doing one task in every room.  Here are some examples of one thing at a time:

Example 1: Laundry

Grab your wash basket (I like to use a big one like this, but sometimes these flexible hampers can be so much easier to carry around) and go through every room of the house picking up any laundry.

The obvious places to start are the bedrooms, but check every room! 

Did someone take their socks off in the living room and leave them there?  True story: SOMEONE in my house takes their socks off and shoves them in-between couch cushions.

I’m not naming names, but it happens!

Are there dirty towels on the bathroom floor?  Are there dish towels in the kitchen that could be washed?

Put them all in your wash basket and start a load of laundry. 

If the wash basket is full before you finish going through all the rooms, start a load with what you have and then finish up gathering the laundry throughout the house.

Pro Tip: If you get in the habit of starting a load of laundry and then forgetting to switch it (like me), set a timer on your phone for about how long the cycle is.  That way, you’ll get a reminder of when to switch it and you’ll stay on track!  I’m speaking from personal experience here.  Your life will be so much easier.

Example 2: Dishes

Gather up ALL the dishes throughout the house.  No, these aren’t always just in the kitchen and dining areas!

Check the bedrooms.  Are there glasses or water bottles in there that haven’t been washed in a while?  Did someone have a midnight snack and leave the plate on the nightstand or under the bed?

Check your cars, too!  You should be washing reusable water bottles pretty often, so make sure those are included in your dishes!

Example 3: Obvious garbage

Are there fast food bags anywhere?  Did you open a piece of mail and leave the empty envelope sitting on a table?  Go through the entire house and throw away every single piece of garbage that is obvious and you don’t have to think about!

Example 4: Dusting

Dust every single room.  I personally hate dusting, so I like to do this first anyway!  

Dust the obvious surfaces, like tables and shelves.  Also make sure to get picture frames, wall decor, etc.  Anything that you spot that could possibly accumulate dust, probably has!

Pro Tip: I like to dust before I do floors or vacuum because dust can fall to a lower surface. This is also why you should always dust from top to bottom in a room, starting with the highest surface and working your way down!

Example 5: Floors

I always like to do the floors last.  The reason is, if I’m dusting or moving things around, dust and debris will probably fall to the floor.  

Vacuum all the rooms at the same time, wash all the floors (if it makes sense for your layout and you won’t be trapped somewhere with nothing but wet floor in front of you) at the same time, etc.

So now that we have two examples of where to start, one room at a time or one thing at a time, what’s next?

How To Clean a Dirty House

Whether you’ve chosen to do one thing at a time, or one room at a time, it’s time to actually act! After all, you didn’t just come here to read about it, your house is a mess!

Here’s a list of things you should be cleaning in each room.  If you need help with how to clean these things, check out my ebook that is on sale to help you!

All Rooms

  • Vacuum / Sweep floors
  • Wash floors
  • Dust fans
  • Wipe down walls (yes, dust and dirt builds up here too!)
  • Dust ledges, blinds and baseboards
  • Wash windows
  • Wipe down light switches and remotes
  • Dust all picture frames, decorative items (don’t forget the stuff hanging on your walls!)
  • Dust light fixtures (this is also a good time to change any lightbulbs as needed!)

Kitchen

  • Wipe down stovetop
  • Wipe down the outside of the refrigerator and all appliances
  • Toss out expired food in your refrigerator and pantry (this is a good time to wipe down those shelves too, and consider starting a pantry inventory, which could help you save money!)
  • Wipe down the sink
  • Dust cupboards, clean out the drawers
  • Clean the microwave and toaster
  • Take out the garbage.  If the garbage area is icky, make sure to clean and disinfect that too!
  • Run a cleaning cycle on your dishwasher
  • Clean the coffee maker

Dining Room

  • Clear off the clutter on the table
  • Wipe off the table
  • Dust any display cases, wipe down cabinets
  • Wipe down chairs

Living Room

  • Wipe down or vacuum couch, loveseat, chairs, etc.  All seating areas!
  • Dust lamps and lamp shades
  • Wipe down coffee table, end tables, side tables, TV stand, etc.
  • Wash any blankets and throw pillows (be sure to check their labels for cleaning instructions!)

Bathrooms

  • Clean toilet
  • Replace shower curtain liner
  • Disinfect sink
  • Clean bathtub
  • Clean toothbrush holder (yep!  This is one of the 17 places you forget to clean!)
  • Wash mirror(s)
  • Dust the top of the vanity or medicine cabinet
  • Wash your bath mat
  • Throw away expired items in the medicine cabinet, makeup you no longer use, old nail polish, etc.

Bedrooms

  • Wash bedding
  • Wipe down and dust dressers, nightstands, and all similar surfaces.
  • Wash or dry clean comforter
  • Organize and wipe down desks, bookcases and shelves
  • Vacuum under and behind the bed 

Office

  • File paperwork
  • Wipe off desk, organize
  • Organize drawers (this is a good place to declutter!  Hello, pens that don’t actually work but you somehow have 7 of them!)
  • Dust shelves

Hallways & Stairs

  • Wipe down handrails and bannisters
  • Clean rugs and welcome matse
  • Vacuum!

Other

  • Wash pet beds
  • Clean off outdoor furniture
  • Run a clean cycle on your washing machine
  • Run a cleaning cycle on your dishwasher
  • Wash outdoor garbage and recycle bins (when they’re empty)

If you’re looking to make yourself a cleaning schedule and have this list (with a few more items) printed out, check out my deep cleaning workbook (on sale right now!). 

In it you’ll find this master list (in a much better printable form), along with blank schedules so you can make yourself a cleaning schedule that works for you, your family, and your busy life!

deep cleaning guide
Click here to get it on sale for only $5!

When you grab the workbook, I also recommend getting a few of these dry erase pockets.

I use these for EVERYTHING! I put all of my checklists in them, and any to-do lists I need for the day.

That way, you only have to print something once, and you can cross it off with a dry erase marker. Then, just erase it and start over next time!

It also saves you money on printing multiple things.

Added bonus?

You’ll have less paper clutter since you’re printing out only one sheet! 🙂

PS – These are my favorite dry erase markers. I like that they’re magnetic, and also each marker comes with its own eraser on the cap – no need to hunt down an eraser or waste a piece of paper towel!

My House Is Always a Mess

If your house is always a mess, it could mean a few things.

First, you might not have a cleaning routine that WORKS. This could be a cleaning schedule that just simply does not fit in with your life. And that’s okay, it happens!

I have a pretty solid schedule for myself, but I’m still making adjustments to it every so often.

The second factor could be that you need more help around the house. This could be in the form of a spouse, kids who are old enough to do chores, roommate, etc.

Even making a rule that everyone spends 5 minutes picking up AND putting away clutter can help. Or, instead of a time limit, you can put an item amount. So, everyone puts away 5 items as soon as they get home, or before bed, etc.

And, the third reason your house might always be a mess is that you aren’t motivated to clean.

If none of those seem to apply to you, I’ll offer you a fourth reason that could apply! And maybe this is a secondary reason to all of the others above, maybe this is a primary reason. You can definitely have more that one reason for the house always being a mess!

Anyway, it could be that the house is always a mess because you are STRESSED.

You’re stressed, overwhelmed, busy, and the house being a mess certainly doesn’t help. In fact, it tends to only ADD MORE stress to your life.

In this situation, you probably aren’t going to find the motivation to clean until you feel good yourself. Now, this is where self care comes in.

Has anyone ever told you that you can’t take care of others until you’ve taken care of yourself first? This is sooo true!

A lot of people take this thought in a selfish way, but it’s really not! If you are burnt out, how much can you really be helping those around you and in your life? And you need to be healthy yourself, that includes mental health!

So, take some time for yourself. Even if it’s only a little bit at a time. Even if you can only find 10 minutes to read a book you’ve abandoned, or if you have a little longer to take a bath.

Here is a quick, short list of self care ideas – the amount of time you can spend is totally up to you!:

  • Read a book
  • Watch a TV show – including rewatching your favorite episode of something! (For me, this is the dinner party episode of The Office. If you know what I’m talking about, then you know).
  • Watch a movie
  • Take a bath
  • Do a face and/or hair mask
  • Meditate
  • Do some yoga, or another workout you find relaxing!

Self care means different things to different people, and it looks different to many people. For me, doing a manicure and pedicure sounds like a great idea, but I’m especially bad at painting my nails and it ends up frustrating – so this probably isn’t the best option for me.

Once you start caring for yourself, you’ll be able to find more motivation for other things, including cleaning your house.

Another thing to consider is not to overwhelm yourself with cleaning the house. If you feel like it’s just a total disaster, try doing a little at a time. Start with the easiest thing you can think of and keep going from there. Then pick up where you left off tomorrow.

Once the house is clean, I highly recommend tying to find a cleaning schedule that works for you so you can help reduce this stress!

The Ultimate Guide to Deep Cleaning Your Home

How Can I Clean My House In 2 Hours?

If you’re looking to clean the house in 2 hours, there are a few things to consider. First, the size of your house – larger houses just might not be feasible.

The second thing to consider is the current state of your house. If you’ve successfully tackled the mess recently, and gotten into a good cleaning routine, then you should definitely be able to do your weekly cleaning in around 2 hours!

I have an entire post dedicated to How To Clean Your Home Fast – In Only 2 Hours! I encourage you to check it out in full detail to really get an understanding of what it entails.

A Note About Pet Hair

One more super helpful resource (if you have pets) is this one on How to Deal with Pet Hair.

We’re a two dog household, so I completely understand the struggle of pet hair floating around, and it always seems to happen 2 hours after vacuuming!

If you’re looking for a quick way to keep up with vacuuming, especially with pets, I highly recommend this Eufy Robovac.

You can read my full Eufy RoboVac Review, but here are a few quick reasons I love it:

It’s easy to use.

There’s really no guesswork in how to assemble it (took like, 20 seconds to add the brushes and that’s it). The guide is very helpful in explaining the different settings.

You can set it on a timer.

Our dogs are NOT fans of this vacuum, or in their minds, the intruder. I love that I can set it on a timer to run while we’re sleeping. The pups are safe in their beds while it’s working on other rooms of the house.

It’s affordable.

As far as robovacs go, prices reach all ends of the spectrum. You can get something like the Eufy, which sometimes will have a coupon readily available. Or you can get robovacs upwards of $500.

Either way, you have a ton of options in this arena. If you have a smaller house, and don’t need an app on your phone for it (it comes with a remote), I personally feel this is the way to go.

It’s intuitive.

The Eufy has sensors so it won’t tumble down the stairs. I did actually test this!

When it was getting close to the edge of a stair, I went to the other side and was ready to catch it – just in case. The vac came close to the edge and then said “nope!” and turned itself right around and went the other direction.

It also will put itself back on it’s docking / charging station when finished, or when you press the “home” button on the remote.

It also is supposed to head home when the battery is getting low, but I haven’t had it running long enough to test that yet.

Check it out on Amazon!

Psychology of a Messy House – Why is a messy house bad?

The thing about a messy house is, it isn’t just that we’re not feeling like cleaning or don’t have any motivation to clean (link).  It also has negative impacts on our health, both mentally and physically.  So you might be wondering, why is a messy house bad?

According to an article from Psychology Today called The Powerful Psychology Behind Cleanliness, “Women who described their living spaces as ‘cluttered’ or full of ‘unfinished projects’ were more likely to be depressed and fatigued than women who described their homes as ‘restful’ and ‘restorative.’”  Check out the full article here.

Does that sound familiar?  It sure rang a bell for me! 

When my house was so cluttered and such a mess, I definitely felt more fatigued. 

Even thinking about tackling the spare bedroom or basement (which both became dumping grounds for things that didn’t have a specific home…yet) was exhausting and overwhelming. 

Let’s just rewind it even a little further back.  When the mess and clutter was just starting to accumulate, I can think of times that I was so busy with work, family stuff, and just general life happenings and things started to pile up.  

It’s not always a quick pile up, either!  Sometimes it starts out just as small as putting a piece of junk mail on the dining room table instead of throwing it away.

Then, you get into the habit of always putting junk mail on the table instead of throwing it away.  A few days of that, maybe not a big deal, but when a week and more pass by, that’s a lot of clutter that builds up!

Sometimes things get so out of control it’s hard to know where to start!  I hope this guide has given you a good starting point and some inspiration on how to start cleaning a messy house.

Let me know in the comments your favorite starting points when you’re overwhelmed!

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My House Is a Mess

how to clean a messy house

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